Using Act-Belong-Commit to Self-Soothe
We can all get emotional sometimes. Even the most level-headed of us can have our moments. It’s part of being human after all.
There is a part in the brain known as the amygdala that is believed to process basic emotions. It acts as the brain’s alarm system when faced with threatening situations. By releasing stress hormones in your body, the ‘fight or flight’ response is activated. Changes in your brain’s neural pathways can divert your thinking away from the more rational part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) and into an emotional state. It’s important to learn how to calm the amygdala so you don’t become hijacked by your emotions.
I kept reading about the importance of self-soothing for your physical and mental well-being, but what does that even mean?
Most commonly, counsellors will talk about the importance of deep breathing to help calm you down in stressful, emotionally charged situations.
What if there were other ways to self-soothe apart from just breathing?
I had a light bulb moment whilst lying on the couch one night in a distressed state. I was gently patting my pet cat, feeling his soft fur under my hands and listening to his purring sounds. By tuning into my senses of touch and hearing, it helped bring my attention away from my thoughts and back to the present moment. Something as simple as playing with a pet helped calm me down and bring a sense of grounding. I was learning to soothe myself and regulate my emotional state just by using my different senses.
This took me down a path of researching other ways to self-soothe. I came up with a list of different things to try when I needed to relax, by utilising my sense of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste or doing something kinaesthetic. These techniques are commonly used in mindfulness practices as well.
Ways to Self-Soothe
Whilst there are many ways to bring a sense of calm, some will work better for you than others. It's about experimenting with your different senses to find the ones that suit you best.
It may even help to practice mindfulness in times of calm rather than waiting until you are at crisis point. You can even create a self-soothing kit with a variety of objects that relax you or a list of comforting activities you might enjoy.
These grounding techniques are not just helpful for dealing with overwhelming emotions; they can also help you deal with life’s stresses such as losing a job or relationship and other life events. Even if things are going well for you, it doesn’t hurt to use these methods to maintain your wellbeing and practice a more mindful state of being.
Learning to self-soothe has been life changing for me. Whilst I still turn to my pet cat when I’m feeling stressed, I now have a whole range of techniques under my belt that soothe me when I’m stressed.
Visual ways to self-soothe
- Colour in a mandala
- Be in nature by visiting a park, beach, river etc
- Watch the clouds
- Buy flowers
- Look at old holiday photos
- Look at photos of loved ones
- Watch a funny movie or TV show
- Read a book to get your mind off things
Using sound to self-soothe
- Listen to calming music
- Listen to the sounds of a pet
- Tell yourself positive affirmations
Using smell to self-soothe
- Light a scented candle
- Cook/bake something fragrant and delicious
- Use essential oils - lavender, orange and bergamot are said to be calming
Using touch to self-soothe
- Have a hot shower
- Relax in a bath
- Touch a pet or soft animal
- Use a heat pack around your shoulders
- Feel the softness and warmth of a blanket
- Sit in the warm sun (remember sun protection)
- Wear comfortable clothes
Using the sense of taste to self-soothe
- Savour a piece of chocolate
- Sip a hot drink, like chamomile tea
Being active to self-soothe
- Take some deep breathes in and out repeating a mantra or slowly counting from 1 to 5
- Dance to your favourite music
- Write in your journal and reflect on what you are grateful for
- Do some gentle stretching or yoga
- Go for a walk or run
- Do some exercise you enjoy
- Rock back and forth in a rocking chair
- Engage in rhythmic activities like cross-stitching
Connecting with others to self-soothe
- Be in the company of a friend
- Do an act of kindness for someone else
- Achieve something like cleaning the house or sorting your wardrobe
- Focus on meaning and greater purpose
- Turn to spirituality and prayer.